After too much time frequenting sites like 43Folders and looking at organization pr0n from people like Mike Rohde and skulking around the lifehack and lifehacker communities, I finally took the plunge last week.
I went to Office Max and bought the folders, the in-basket, the paperclips and rubber bands and binder clips. I felt great when a sales associate found, buried in the top shelves, the label printer that was on sale at half-price. I blocked the two days that David recommended, and I even taped the template of the Getting Things Done template over my desk.
And I began the Big Sort. Everything went into the in-basket...which quickly became the in-box. I was vicious, I threw things away, I barraged my wife with "Is this yours? Where do you want it, this is my space, now!" And after a couple of hours, I had a very nice, clean desk. In fact, as long as I sat at it, it felt great-my laptop at a jaunty angle to the left, a nice pile of white paper in the center of the desk, a Pilot G2 next to it, and the blue/white cover of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity; with David Allen smiling beatifically at me.
As long as I didn't turn around, of course, and actually look at the piles on the bed. The full-to-overflowing inbox. The pile of equipment/cables/etc that would need to be sorted. The stacks of books and magazines that would have to be filed, shelved, or finally, as a last resort, actually read. No, I couldn't look at that, because after the physical sorting, there's another step David demands (I almost said "suggests", but let's face it, he says often in the book basically "If you don't listen to my advice, and this doesn't work for you, whose fault is that?").
It's the mental cleanup. It's sitting down at that stack of papers and writing down EVERYTHING that's on your mind. Every project, from feed the cats to learn Chinese. And put them, one at a time, into the in box.
I got started. Heidi's Website. Satorimedia website. Get 1st Dan in Aikido. Run a marathon. Edit your novel. I started to sweat, my brow furrowed. Get a new car. Find a new apartment. What else? My mind raced, coming up with more and more things. Improve your wardrobe. Update blogroll on fameorfamine.com. Make more time for your daughters. Get shoes that don't smell. Organize your iTunes playlists.
Finally, I couldn't come up with any more. I was slumped there at the desk, physically sick. The stack of papers now in my inbox represented not the liberating "mind-like-water" that I'd read of, no, it represented failure, projects incomplete, dreams deferred, inadequacy and weakness and a lack of initiative and strategy.
It felt awful. And that's why I'm writing this, because Mike, Merlin, David, I don't remember any of you ever mentioning this feeling. Maybe it was just me. But it was like a crushing weight bearing down on me.
I left it all behind and went for a run (Run a marathon). Luckily it was a cold day, and the lake was blowing freezing wind at me, so I had something to fight against, to physically express the frustration and despair I was feeling. I ran, and ran, and wished I could keep running and that would be all I'd need to worry about. But eventually my path led back to the door.
I did go back. I went in, and started the processing. The flowchart was like an assembly line. Do it in less than 2 minutes? Fine, done. File? Fine, make another label (this is one thing that WAS right--making actual labels for the folders gave a joyful button-pushing video-game rush that lasted). Defer? Fine, put it in the Tickle Her file (I'm a fan of puns, what can I say).
The purge was interrupted by needing to go to dinner with my wife, and my demeanor was depressed, still. It wasn't done. I didn't have a mind like water, I had a mind like a sewage treatment plant after the flood.
I did not sleep well.
The next day I kept at it. File, purge, label, do it, repeat. And then open up the long dormant kGTD (I've got that, a moleskine, Tracks, Backpack...and none really does what I want it to. But kGTD comes closest). And the projects started going in...and it started to take shape.
My life, that is. Everything that had been on my mind went in that basket. Everything went out of that basket into kGTD, and the happy OmniOutlined tasks, merrily syncing and changing colors and sorting themselves...it was like the final push through the wall at the end of the race, when you can see the finish line and suddenly you aren't running, you are being run, and you realize that there is no choice, you are going to reach that finish line after all.
And then I was done. Well, mostly. I was done with the tasks; there's still some equipment that needs to be put away. Single tasks: Put away equipment. Filed. Tickled to next week, when I'll have time. And you know what? I'm not worrying about it now.
I finally reached it, that feeling of greatness (and, of course, that feeling of "I'd better keep up! Weekly review! Weekly review!"). But that dark transitional point...that was a surprise. So let that be a warning to you aspiring GTDers out there: do not stop halfway, and prepare yourself for the crushing weight of everything you've been carrying around inside to be unbelievably heavy when you actually drag it out and pile it up in front of you.
But when it's processed? Oh, you'll feel so light you'll skip, you'll laugh, you'll dance.
Better keep dancing, though. I don't want to go through it again.